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Silver Threads: Drive

Bettye Anding

Bettye Anding

When my driving days ended about four years ago, life didn’t change much with my always-on-the-go husband available to take me any and everywhere.

 Now, a year into widowhood, things have slowed down for me: there’s competition from my daughter’s own needs and responsibilities that require transportation.
But recently we discovered Uber, which is a good deal considering that I’m not paying for car insurance, new tires and other repairs or gas. It cost me $14 to get from our neighborhood, very near Belle Chasse, to Commander’s Palace for a lunch with former Picayune co-workers.
Of course, I have to be assisted with this new-fangled service. Since I don’t have a smartphone and have no inclination to learn to use one, either my daughter or a grandson has to set up rides for me. So far that’s worked well.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, I read a news story about driverless cars and how the techies have taken this concept even further. Here’s a quote from a website in case you missed the article:
“The technology trade show in Las Vegas opened its doors for the first time on Thursday, with around 170,000 visitors expected across four days. The Concept-i is powered by voice controls that can read passengers' emotions.
Many flocked to car giant Toyota’s booth to see the firm’s Concept-i car, which instead of buttons and screens is interacted with using voice. The built-in virtual assistant, Yui, uses artificial intelligence to measure emotions based on passenger responses and alters the car’s settings accordingly," Toyota says.
“The car also has autonomous features and can park itself. However only 300 of the FF91, which the firm says will challenge Tesla, have so far been announced as going into production.”
I’m very dubious about this “emotion-driven” feature. Here are some of the things I can imagine happening should you invest — how much are they going to cost? $300,000? — in one of these cars:
— You’re cruising along DeGaulle Drive, almost late for an eye doctor’s appointment that it took you six weeks to get and pass by Appleby’s, where you had a burger last night and opted out of ordering the beautiful chocolate dessert pictured on the menu. Your tastebuds go on alert, saliva races down your tongue, the car makes a fast U-turn ….
— You’re almost at Lakeside Mall to pick up a gift for a friend and then head to River Ridge for her birthday party. When you see the “Causeway” sign you remember the happy days at the weekend house that your husband built in Abita Springs, the bike rides with small grandsons on the Tammany Trace. Nostalgia sweeps over you — Yikes! you’re headed for the North Shore!
Of course, the Concept-i’s abilities could be an unforeseen  life saver in at least one scenario: You’re on the Crescent Connection headed for the CBD and feeling a mounting disgust with the driving habits of your fellow Orleanians.
Cars swerve, tailgate and cut you off when your vehicle tries to change lanes. All are traveling waaay over the speed limit and some drivers have the audacity to honk loudly and raise and shake the middle digit in your direction.
Your tension is mounting and then anger erupts at the behavior of these maniacal morons. Beating on a window, you scream to take charge of this crazy car — which departs the expressway at the Tchopitoulas exit and makes a beeline for your psychiatrist’s office.
Which could be one way to curb road rage.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at bta7735@icloud.com.